Fire Engine Plate, "Liberty 16"

Description (Brief)
At the core of any fire company is the apparatus used to fight fires and protect lives. This was particularly true of for the volunteer fire fighters in 19th century America. Often purchased with their own funds, their fire engines were the focus of their pride and affection, as well as their identities as fire fighters. Engine plates, often made of brass, would be prominently affixed to engines and inscribed with the company name, number, and founding date. Engine plates could pass from old engine to new, or be kept in the firehouse as a memorial to a departed apparatus.
This curved metal engine plate was used by the Liberty Hook and Ladder Company Number 16 of New York City during the early middle of the 19th century. Liberty No. 16 was founded in 1840 and located at the corner of Lexington and Fiftieth Street. The curved plate has diamond accents on the top with a shield-shaped droplet below that is engraved with the number “16” with a crossed hook and ladder across the “16.” The word “LIBERTY” is engraved in calligraphic letters across the arch, and the engraving is filled with black enamel. The back of the plate is inscribed “Built by/C.E. Hartshorn/New York.” Charles E. Hartshorn built a variety of fire fighting apparatus in New York City during the mid-to-late 19th century.
Currently not on view
Object Name
plate, fire engine
date made
ca 1862
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 15 in; 17.78 cm x 38.1 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
Fire Fighting
Firefighting Collection
Fire Engine Plates
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Firefighting Collection
Fire Engine Plates
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.